Patients already seeing benefits from open heart surgery program

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With less than a year remaining until Gwinnett Medical Center officially opens its Heart and Vascular Center, a handful of patients have already reaped the benefits.

Much of the attention surrounding GMC's newest addition -- scheduled to open in early 2012 -- has focused on the introduction of open heart surgery, which will remove Gwinnett's title as the country's largest county without such a facility.

But even as construction, staffing and planning continue, the hospital is making strides toward implementing a full regiment of heart-related care.

Dr. Louis Heller performed the first-ever coronary angioplasty and heart stent within Gwinnett County lines on March 1, and since then dozens of scheduled procedures have been completed at GMC's pre-existing cardiac catheterization lab.

In addition to that, GMC physicians have performed a number of emergency procedures.

Between March 1 and April 30, 24 patients that arrived on-site while having a heart attack received immediate attention at the hospital, spokeswoman Beth Okun said.

The average time from arrival to reinstituting blood flow in those cases was 62 minutes, Okun said. The standard set by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association is 90 minutes.

"Before, cardiac patients needing interventional treatments had to leave Gwinnett," hospital CEO Philip Wolfe said in a previous statement. "Now, they are able to receive this advanced service here in our community."

"This moved us one major step closer to offering the complete array of advanced cardiovascular care right here in Gwinnett."

The hospital has also recently activated its new LifeNet system, which enables EMS crews to transmit highly detailed cardiovascular data from ambulances to GMC's emergency department. The system, available in all Gwinnett County ambulances, then forwards information directly to the mobile device of the appropriate physician.

Gwinnett Medical's Heart and Vascular Center is slated to be open to patients in January.